Professor's work with U.S. museum provides personal, professional inspiration
November 28, 2019
Dr. Robert Ventresca, Professor of King’s History department, says his work on the Committee for Ethics, Religion and the Holocaust under the auspices of the Program on Ethics, Religion and the Holocaust at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. has been impactful for both his teaching and his research. Dr. Ventresca was recently asked to serve for another three-year term on the Committee.
Dr. Ventresca says working on the Committee has provided him with the “inspiration, support and a renewed sense of purpose” in teaching King’s students about Holocaust history and the history of genocide in general.
“It's more important than ever to engage our students and the wider community in this history and its legacy for our world. In the era of fake news and information overload, it's vital to furnish students with the factual knowledge and critical thinking needed for responsible, ethical engagement with the big issues of our own time, and of the future,” says Dr. Ventresca.
Additionally, Dr. Ventresca says his work on the Committee has enriched his own research and teaching at King’s by highlighting the importance of coming to terms with the role of religion in genocide.
“People often look to draw overly-simplistic conclusions about the role that religious ideas and beliefs have played in enabling mass atrocities and genocide. Religion has helped to inspire people to commit some of the worst atrocities imaginable, yet the very same religious traditions have also inspired resistance to the forces of oppression and violence,” says Dr. Ventresca.
Dr. Ventresca explains his work is driven by the question of what the Catholic Church, especially church leaders did with their power and influence during World War II, a time of war, mass atrocity and genocide, as well as after the Holocaust, in a time of need for change for Jewish-Christian relations
“It takes methodical research and sound interpretation to arrive at meaningful conclusions about why religious leaders like the Pope did what they did, and what we think they ought to have done -- or do -- in times of extreme crisis,” says Dr. Ventresca.
The relationship Dr. Ventresca has developed with the Committee has also benefited King’s. In March 2016, Dr. Victoria Barnett, then-Director of the Program on Ethics, Religion and the Holocaust at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum spoke as part of the Veritas Series in March 2016 Dr. Barnett’s appearance came after Dr. Ventresca, who knew of her work, approached Veritas Series organizers including King’s Campus Ministry, who extended a formal invitation.
Dr. Ventresca was initially invited to serve on the Committee in 2017 because of his research on the Catholic Church in the Nazi-Fascist period and in the Holocaust-era.
The Committee was established to engage religious organizations to fulfil the mandate of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council of Holocaust educational programming in both religious and secular contexts. Council members draw on their expertise and experience working with religious groups and issues in an advisory role, offering context, guidance and feedback to the Council.
For more information on the Committee on Ethics, Religion, and the Holocaust at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum at https://www.ushmm.org/research/about-the-mandel-center/initiatives/ethics-religion-holocaust/committee-on-church-relations-and-the-holocaust.
For more information on King’s History department, please visit https://www.kings.uwo.ca/academics/history/